How life in lockdown has changed the meaning of personal style for fashion writers

Photo by Claudio Lavenia/Getty Images
Photo by Claudio Lavenia/Getty Images
  • There are certain items you haven't pulled out of your wardrobe since the lockdown started.
  • Heels, formal clothing, tight jeans are just some of the clothing items many have rendered useless for now.
  • But personal style goes beyond just the clothes, as Modupe discovers what it actually means through a conversation with a fellow fashion writer. 

W24 Fashion & Beauty writer Afika Jadezweni, is a firm believer in the positive attributes of intentional personal style, lockdown or no lockdown. “I do like to show up and present myself well for other people, I think it’s a sign of respect actually to sort of primp yourself up, for not only yourself but for the other people you work with, other people you’re going to see in public,” she says.

Having written about fashion for most of my career, I agree. Mostly.

READ MORE: Will we ever wear bras on a full-time basis again? 6 local women share their bra-free experiences 

I’ve become somewhat removed from my own personal style exploits in a gradual detachment that began long before lockdown. Between questioning all the extra boxes women must visually tick to be presentable and the effect of working from home for close to a year now, it’s been easier to explore professionally than to engage with personally. For me, style has become primarily functional, with very little expression on offer. 

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Out of office, still plotting. Not telling. ??

A post shared by Modupe Oloruntoba (@drivingmsdupsie) on

I called Afika for a different perspective on what personal style means now, behind masks, across webcams, in our homes with no witnesses. There are several degrees of difference between our two experiences of personal style, and several beyond them too, but no matter where you fall on that spectrum, you can relate to the abrupt disruption to life that so many are experiencing. 

READ MORE: Why not continue primping and dressing up when you're working from home and social distancing? 

The global pandemic and attempts to curb its spread have changed our lives in sweeping & sudden ways, but also in some smaller, personal ones. While we are rightfully focused on the impact of the former, it is the latter I’m curious about now: it’s interesting to make sense of how the small things change us. I’m especially interested in the small things that felt bigger before this, like self-expression through style.

Our conversation and my personal reflections showed me three things: 

Even now, you are who you are

On day one, Afika wore staples: her typical office outfit of a tee tucked into a skirt, paired with red lipstick. “I still had the steam for it,” she said, later detailing how she slowly adapted, as we all have, to the amorphous form daily life has taken on. 

She’s now in loungewear and athleisure, and lipgloss in place of lipstick — “‘Cause what’s the point; we’re wearing masks when we go outside.” Like Afika (and, I suspect, most of us), I’ve remained consistent in principle even if expressions are varied. I’m pretty minimal, and if my hair is anything more than pulled back into a puff for a zoom meeting with anyone but a client or an editor, I’ve done more than most days. It’s a hibernation edit of my 24/7 self.  

Details still matter 

They soften us, sharpen us, and punctuate expression. The feeling of being intentionally dressed for the day often boils down to a handful of key elements that vary from person to person. Afika’s list? 

Lipgloss, perfume, and a bra that marks the beginning and end of the workday. Coffee and scented candles are pillars too, as stand-ins for the missing barista-brewed cup on the way into the office and good music on her commute. “I just brush up my brows and put on mascara, some gloss, some perfume, just to feel like I’m not slothing away through the day," Afika says. 

Here is where I wholeheartedly concur. My daily spritz of Burberry Brit for Her has been strangely centering — it smells like normal life. Running errands took on new meaning when I switched back to a wearing a cute handbag along with the grocery totes I carried; little else had changed and I felt I looked better than I had in weeks. 

Style is still a choice 

It's a space to exercise agency when it’s been laid bare how little is really ours to control. “It’s a mood lifter… it gives the day a sense of purpose,” Afika shared. 

“Instantly, I feel good, I feel so clean and presentable, and I like just being in well-considered clothes, regardless of lockdown.” 

The few times life has spun out of control during lockdown I’ve found myself reaching for baking and music for solace, but also for style, to my surprise, and it feels good to remember it can do that and I can use it that way.

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